Overdoses killing dozens in Ottawa, activists say

Forty-five pairs of shoes lined the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street on Monday, representing the estimated number of people who died from drug overdoses in Ottawa last year.

In accordance with International Overdose Awareness Day, members of Campaign for Safer Consumption Sites and Drug Users Advocacy League called for supervised injection sites in Ottawa to prevent drug overdoses and to challenge what they say is the stigma faced by drug users.

Nic Diliso, one of the participants, said he was there to raise awareness and remember those he has lost due to drug overdose.

“Supervised injection would make things safer,” Diliso said. “People would know that there’s somewhere safe they can go ... and they’d use that option.”

Diliso himself battled addiction on and off for about two decades and he advocates harm reduction for other drug users in the city.

Diliso said having a trained superviser at injection sites would prevent others from dying by accidental overdose.

Supervised-injection sites have been oppposed by both Mayor Jim Watson and police Chief Charles Bordeleau in the past.

Rob Boyd, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s Oasis program director, said Ottawa residents are generally unaware of overdose-related deaths in the city.

“This is not on their radar, which is alarming,” Boyd said. “Ottawa is not exempt amongst cities in Canada where a lot of people are on opioid-based pain medication ... if you’re on that, you’re (at) risk of overdose.”

He added the advocates have looked at Vancouver’s supervised injection sites, as well as some European models for Ottawa.

While Ottawa’s current needle-exchange program is successful, there are a lot of people at risk who don’t use needle exchange, Boyd told the Sun.

Because there are at-risk drug users that don’t use needles, increased access to Naloxone, a drug used to treat addiction that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system, is also needed, Boyd said.

By Julienne Bay
Source: Ottawa Sun